Personal Testimony

Mammy Dearest: the Mother-Daughter Relationship

Bien que ma mère soit une femme tout à fait remarquable, je dirais que notre relation mère-fille est assez complexe.
My dear mother and our mother-daughter relationship.
Photo credit: Marili Levac

Mammy, Mammy, Mammy ! Where do I begin? Although my mother is an absolutely remarkable woman, I would say that our relationship is quite complex. In fact, I got to know the woman deep within my mother when I was a little bit older; and it was only when I discovered this hidden woman that I finally understood my mother better.

Mother-Daughter Relation: small anecdote

A few days ago, my mother and I were supposed to accompany my father to go see his gerontologist in the afternoon. Since he is currently residing in a temporary nursing home, we needed to first go pick him up before heading to his appointment which was all the way across the city. Since I had an appointment earlier that day, I had asked my mother to go and get my father ready in the early afternoon to ensure that he would be ready to go by 1:30pm. She responded to my request by saying that the staff at the residence would get him ready on time because they were aware of his appointment.

After my appointment, I got back home around 12:40pm. Upon my return, my mother asked me if I was ready to go to the centre to meet my father. I said that I would head there for 1:30pm as planned because I had not eaten yet, and my father’s appointment was only at 2:30pm. She then said that we needed to leave home earlier because my father needed to get dressed, and she did not want to arrive late to his appointment. I told her to go ahead without me and that I would meet her directly at the nursing home at 1:30pm when I would be ready. At 1:15pm, she had not yet left the house. She was at the front door, waiting for me.

When Things go Wrong… Stay Calm!

When we got to the nursing home, my father was sitting with a practically untouched plate of food before him. The staff had not fed him; and my father was neither dressed, nor shaved. It was now 1:30pm, and we were all the way in Rivière-des-Prairies needing to get to Côte-des-Neiges. The situation would not have been so bad if my mother would have allowed me to drive. Instead, she drove and made her usual unnecessary detours that only lengthened the trip. Needless to say, we finally arrived 20 minutes late…

In short, it is in these types of situations that I need to be thick-skinned and remind myself that my mother carried me for 9 months, that I was in breech position, and that I was her first C-section… Oh yes! And that I love her, of course!

Mother-Daughter Relationship: Opposite Personalities

Compared to my sisters, I am the one whose personality and character resemble my father the most. My youngest sister pointed out to me one day that when we were teenagers, I would often take my father’s side over my mother’s side during discussions, and this would drive my mother nuts! However, it was not intentional. My father and I are very rational, pragmatic, systematic, and organized. We really value facts and logic which is the opposite of my mother who gives more value to feelings and opinions. In her eyes, my pragmatism was an attack on who she was, on her skills, and on her parental authority, but I was merely trying to follow reason.

On top of our very different personalities, I had a very typical Haitian mother figure: the extremely severe mother who is controlling and rules her home with an iron fist. Not easy for the arrogant and vivacious teenager that I was. I therefore lived in the hopes of moving out on my own as soon as possible. The irony in all of this is that out of all of my siblings, I am the one who stayed home the longest under my mother’s watch.

Mother-Daughter Relationship: an Evolving Relationship

Nevertheless, the view I had of my mother began to change a few years ago when we traveled to Morocco together. At that time, I traveled frequently. That year, I had decided to go backpacking. I had already planned out my entire trip when my eldest sister and my father turned my plans upside down by insisting that I bring my mother along. I finally agreed to do so with some reluctance… but with no regrets!

Our mother-daughter relationship was put to the test right from the get-go of the trip, but not for the reasons previously mentioned. As soon as we arrived at the Montreal airport, my mother was no longer my mother. She had turned into a carefree teenager that needed to be restrained: our roles had suddenly been reversed for the next 3 weeks. I attempted to explain to my mother travel safety tips and food safety regulations that needed to be respected overseas, but to no avail. She didn’t follow any of my guidelines; she wanted to try everything, eat everything, see everything, buy everything, and follow her own agenda.

When Things Go Wrong and God Comes to the Rescue!

At one point, she wanted to stay in a large luxurious riad when I had already reserved a modest room in a small guest house. Then another time, she wanted to go to a hammam, followed by some shopping at a souk, while we were already on our way to a museum. She was so frantically all over the place that it had become exhausting. After constantly diving in head first into the unknown, she ended up getting food poisoning (because she had not respected the guidelines I had given her) in addition to the virus she had caught on the plane. In the end, it was illness that finally slowed down her momentum.

What really impressed me during the trip was her 5km climb up the Atlas mountain by foot. Imagine a woman in her 60s, weakened by the flu, climbing up the rocky and steep slope of the Atlas! Wow!

The Woman Within my Mother

Once we returned home from the trip, I was in awe of the strength and the vivacity of this woman. My mother is a go-getter, a warrior and a true fighter. She is hard working: when she decides something, she does it without hesitation. She’s an open-minded leader with ideas, and she creates ways to achieve them. Come what may, she defends her children and her husband, even when they are wrong. She is both a tigress and a bull. She is not discouraged by hardship or suffering. On the contrary, she overcomes adversity and asks for more.

At 73 years old, she has not said her last word: she continues to work and take care of her home, and this, despite her osteoarthritis and a herniated disc, she seems to be tireless. Watching her work so hard, I understand the reasons why my father is so in love with her. To this day, he asks for her as he wakes up and when he goes to bed. The way my father’s face lights up when he sees her… it really makes you dream!

Mother-Daughter Relationship: Not So Different After All!

I now recognize the aspects of our personalities that coincide: like me, my mother is an entrepreneur who is not afraid to think outside the box. This is unlike my father, who prefers to stay in his comfort zone while taking the fewest risks possible. In any event, I know that I will never measure up to this phenomenal mother of mine.

Letting Go of the Woman Within my Mother

That being said, ever since the beginning of the summer, I noticed my mother suddenly grow old all at once. My father’s illness finally got the better of her despite my presence and my support. When a spouse falls severely ill, we expect to see their husband or wife take charge of all important matters to ensure the care and administration of the entire estate. Do we not say: “For better or for worse; in sickness or in health.” However, the reality is that no one is ever prepared to become a caregiver. We become one in spite of ourselves: out of love, out of pity, or out of contempt.

My mother lived in denial of my father’s illness for several years. She did not believe it. To see his condition suddenly worsened so drastically put her at her wit’s end. She had to learn to accept that she would not enjoy the peaceful and dynamic retirement that she had imagined for herself. I believe that in mourning the loss of this retirement dream of hers, she also had to mourn the loss of an inner part of herself. My mother realized that she would never again be that fiery woman who would make decisions based on her slightest whims as before. The woman deep within her that she had once pushed aside in order to become a dutiful wife and mother, and who she so badly wanted to set free again in her old age, would unfortunately never come back.

Accepting the Woman Within my Mother

Today I entirely accept the stubborn, tenacious, and controlling woman that is my mother. I admire this strong and brave woman who does not cower in the face of adversity. I accept her share of imperfections because I understand them a little better today. I understand the sacrifices and the humiliation she had to endure to become my father’s wife and a devoted mother for her children.

During the darkest moments of my depression, I saw my mother’s heart bleed for her anguished daughter that she could not fight for. Although she was not the most affectionate of women, I knew that she was suffering from watching me wither away. She went so far as to want to fix things with my ex-fiancé to ensure a future for me. Then, when she realized that he was not for me, she tried to console me. My mother is a complex woman who still has a lot to accomplish on this earth. Despite the complexity of our relationship, we love each other, and we would not be able to live without one another.

The Restoration of the Mother-Daughter Relationship

I would like to take a few minutes to address the women and girls who are in conflict with their mothers or daughters. I firmly believe that my God is a God of reconciliation and that He is able to heal all kinds of wounds. I believe that He is able to restore relationships that seem doomed to fail. The Bible reveals to us that God is not only our Father, but also, our Mother. Contrary to the conception that we have of Yahweh, He is neither masculine nor feminine, but rather, both. Thus, Yahweh can be manifested in our lives as a Father or as a Mother.

« As a mother comforts her child,
    so will I comfort you. »

Isa. 66:13a, NIV

In Matthew 23:37, Jesus says (when speaking of Yahweh) that He wishes to gather us under his wings like a hen gathers her chicks. Moreover, one of the names of Yahweh, El Shaddai, according to the Hebrew tradition can be translated into English as “God with both maternal breasts” or the “nourishing God.”

Therefore, now that we have established that God is Father as well as Mother, I invite you to approach your nourishing Mother so that you can be covered and healed from your broken relationships.

My Prayer for You

Papa, I would like to pray for all the women who have complex, strained, or even non-existent relationships with their mothers or daughters. From the bottom of my heart, I know that it is not your will for your daughters to tear down one another, argue with one another, or clash with one another. I know that you have much more in store for all of these women who have been unable to build a constructive and loving mother-daughter relationship and are now suffering from it. I ask you to heal the wounds of the past and to open up new horizons for comprehension, acceptance and discussion among them. Thank you for the gift that you have given to us women: to bear life and to carry it through into the relationships that we build on this earth. Thank you Papa because your Word reveals to us that besides being our Father, you are also our Mother. You carry us on your breast, you love us, you shelter us, and you hold us. Thank you because even if we may no longer have the opportunity to restore a relationship with our earthly mother, you are, and you will, remain the Mother par excellence who nourishes us and who heals us entirely by your love. Amen!

About Author

As far as she can remember, Anathalie has always loved God. Despite the tortuous paths she has taken, He remained faithful and never let her down. Anathalie grew up in a small Free Methodist church in Montreal's Haitian community where her parents were involved in ecclesiastical ministry. From a very young age, she gave her life to the Lord and served in church for the advancement of God's work. She has been attending La Chapelle Church in Montreal since June 2014, where she puts her gifts, talents and experience to the service of the church's operations team as well as the pastoral care team. In 2018, she began studying theology in order to become a chaplain to help people who are suffering. "They say of me that I am a passionate, creative, reserved and bold woman. I have a sweet tooth, I can be lunatic from time to time, I love old movies and French soap operas and I hate feet ... For real! "

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